Episode 109: Interview with Elizabeth Urbanowicz and Helping Our Kids Think Critically, Part 2

In this episode we continue our conversation with Elizabeth Urbanowicz, founder and CEO of Foundation Worldview about helping our children learn to think critically while building a Christian world view. She gives us some great pointers on talking with our children about important questions leading to critical thinking and effective reasoning even with our youngest little ones.

Our Guest This Week: Elizabeth Urbanowicz

Elizabeth Urbanowicz is a follower of Jesus who is passionate about equipping kids to understand the truth of the Christian worldview. Elizabeth holds a B.S. in Elementary Education from Gordon College, an M.S.Ed. in Education from Northern Illinois University, and an M.A. in Christian Apologetics from Biola University. Elizabeth spent the first decade of her professional career teaching elementary students at a Christian school. Elizabeth now works full time on developing comparative worldview and apologetics resources for children. Her goal is to prepare the next generation to be lifelong critical thinkers and, most importantly, lifelong disciples of Jesus.

Information on Foundation Worldview

Foundation-Worldview-Fact-SheetDownload

Interview with Mike Winger: 7 Lies Your Kids Will Believe Unless You Do Something

Transcript with Links:

Terrie:

Welcome to “Books that Spark,” a podcast for parents and caregivers, celebrating books that spark imagination, emotion, questions, and discussion leading to teachable moments with our kids. This is part two of my conversation with Elizabeth Urbanowicz, and we are excited that you’re here to hear all the wonderful information she shares with us. And I hope you are truly blessed. She is the founder of Foundation Worldview, which includes a wonderful website with all kinds of materials and a curriculum that helps our children develop critical thinking and to build a Christian worldview. Elizabeth, thank you for joining us today. I’m so happy to get to talk with you.

Elizabeth:

Oh, it’s my pleasure. Thanks for having me on, Terrie.

Terrie:

You have a book club where you do recommend books each month, and I really love that you include questions and discussion points, and also include a book for parents. I like to do that as well on my podcast. But I appreciate that, and I just wanted to make sure that our listeners know that you have that. And can you kind of talk about how you go about choosing the books that you recommend in your book club?

Elizabeth:

Yes. So we have a book club that comes out once a month, usually almost always on the first of the month. And we recommend three books every month. We recommend one title for adults, then one title for 8 to 12 year olds, and one title for four to seven year olds. And then for the two kids books that we recommend, we always have three or four discussion questions, worldview questions, where we’re really trying to get beneath the surface. You know, it’s not just “did this character make the right choice?” You know, but we’re actually thinking through, okay, when this character did this, what did it show that he or she believed? Does that line up with scripture? How do you know? Cause we really want to get kids thinking critically and we want to get them reading, you know, exposed to some good literature as well. And so how we go about choosing those books, usually for the adult books, I choose a book that I personally have really found beneficial. You know, whether it’s something that I have really learned a lot from, or sometimes we’ll choose a fiction book. I just find as an adult, you know, I really love fiction. I find it really relaxing just to be able to get lost in a good book, but I also find it really hard to find good books to get lost in just because a lot of, you know, what’s being published in the secular world, you know, is just highly sexualized. And then what a lot of what’s being published in the Christian world is like highly romanticized. And so just sometimes finding good fiction books is difficult. So I love finding them and recommending them and then also good informational books for adults. And then for the kids ones, I usually go about this two ways. Usually when we have non-fiction ones like ones that are, for example, this month we recommended a book called Who Am I and Why Do I Matter? by Chris Morphew. And that was a book that I had picked up and I read, and I just thought it was so great because the chapters are really short, they’re engaging, but they go through really important questions about, you know, like, can I decide who I am? Like, why can’t I just follow my heart? Can I just figure out who I am for my friends? And it goes through, you know, just the biblical argument of how our identity is grounded in an image bearer of God. So a lot of times I’ll just look for books on, you know, like, Good Book Company or Crossway or other places. And then for a lot of the fiction books that I choose for older kids, for 8 to 12 year olds, I actually have a former student of mine help me. She’s a voracious reader, so she reads a ton. So I ask her to give me some titles that she has really found engaging. So I love getting help from somebody with more of a younger perspective too, to help me figure out what would kids be interested in. So, yeah, so that’s usually the way I go about choosing the books. And I love getting to recommend those love, getting to hear the conversations that parents have with kids as they read through the books together. That that’s what really excites me.

Terrie:

That’s awesome. I love the book you recommended last month too, for the families about hospitality. I can’t wait to read that one. That one looks really interesting.

Elizabeth:

The Gospel Comes with a House Key.

Terrie:

Yes. I love the title. So that one looks really great. I wanted to go back kind of to what you were talking about before I asked this question, do you have training for parents? So we know how to formulate good questions, you know, solid questions to really approach different subjects with our children that can kind of help train us as parents.

Elizabeth:

Yes. Good question. Yes we do. Every month we host two webinars where we just cover a topic last month I interviewed Rosaria Butterfield. The author of that The Gospel Comes with a House Key book and we just talk through like, okay, you know, how can we practice biblical hospitality in our homes with our children? And so once a month I’ll interview someone who can teach about, you know, some aspect of getting kids to think critically about the Gospel and the truth of the Christian worldview. And then once a month, I’ll also do a teaching session on a webinar on, you know, a variety of different topics. You know, a couple months ago before Easter did one on, you know, helping our kids understand the historical reliability of the resurrection. And next week I’m doing one on, you know, just tips for raising kids who don’t walk away from Jesus. So those webinars are available for free all on our website FoundationWorldview.com. And I just really encourage people because a lot of times when I’m in conversations with people, they’ll ask a question and I’ll give a response. And they’re like, wow, how did you think of that so quickly? And I’m like, well, it’s not that I’m super intelligent or anything. I’ve just chosen to surround myself, you know, with a lot of different material from people who think well and think a lot better than I do so that this stuff comes naturally, you know, in my free time. And parents, especially parents of young kids, don’t have a ton of free time, you know. But even when you know, you’re cleaning or you’re making dinner or, you know, like you’re in the shower, whatever, you know, you can just turn on a podcast and just listen to a podcast of someone, you know, like answering questions. Terrie, before you mentioned my interview with Mike Winger. I think Mike Winger is, you know, one of the best resources out there for learning how to think biblically and how to think critically, you know, and you watch enough of his YouTube videos and you just kind of develop the skills that he has. You know, I think that’s a really great way to do that. So yeah, so I recommend the webinars on our website that they can really help train you. But I also recommend, you know, just find other people that either have a YouTube channel or a podcast that just think well, and just start listening to them over and over and over again. And pretty soon you start to pick up those skills and it’ll be much more natural for you to ask questions to your children and to answer questions.

Terrie:

That’s great. Yeah. I love Mike Winger’s podcast, and I also appreciate, well there’s several, but Alyssa Childers comes to mind too. What impresses me about hers is not only does she answer questions wisely, she also does it with such compassion and love. And I thought, you know, that’s sometimes a hard thing when we’re confronted with opposing views to be kind, to be merciful and to love the person, even though they’re very confused. And our children need to see that and see us modeling that kind of an attitude as a Christian. And so I think that’s one of the things I really appreciate about her podcast too.

Terrie:

Well, I know with my kids, they’re–three of my four are on the autism spectrum and they have, you know, how each of them usually have an area they’re totally into. And one is totally into history and languages and cultures. And so we’ve talked a lot about religion. world religions. And then my older two are totally into science. And so they’re grown now, they’re adults now. But when they were very young, we approached the whole topic of evolution because I knew they were going to be confronted with it in every single thing they read, it seemed like. And so tackling, I mean, maybe it was an advantage that they were autistic because they think differently than other kids. And we were able to tackle some pretty deep things pretty early on, but I wonder, you know, with really young children, because that is kind of the focus of my podcast, you start with truth on your curriculum, but how can we maybe talk about… We teach them the creation story, but how do we teach them that science supports creation? At a very young age and, you know, that’s my concern is, how do we help parents to start talking about these things when they’re really young and really build into our kids, the ability to think, but starting when they’re really young. So I think you’ve kind of covered that, but if you’d like to talk about this part with evolution, with creation, what would you say?

Elizabeth:

Yeah. So, I think you’re hitting on some really important things there, you know, the importance of starting these conversations young, because we always want to be formative in our instruction rather than reformative, you know, so if we wait until something that’s not true comes along, then we have to be reformative. So we always want to build up the positive case first. So I think it was so wise of you to do that with your children. And then, you know, we’ve talked a lot about thinking well and thinking clearly, and I think, especially in this realm of science and creation, I think it’s one that’s really important for us to think clearly in, because it can be very, very confused just because science asks and tries to answer so many different questions. And when we’re talking about the start of creation, we need to make sure we don’t get the different questions muddled up in our mind. You know? So there, the different questions are, how did the universe begin? You know, how did the universe begin is a different question than how did life begin? Which is a different question than what is the age of the earth? You know, those are three distinct questions and we need to be careful that we’re thinking about them clearly, so that we’re not muddled in our thinking and passing on muddled thinking to our kids that they might then later realize is muddled thinking. So what we like to do at Foundation Worldview is we like to keep things really simple for kids and make sure that we’re approaching things at a developmentally appropriate level. So the question that we like to cover that we prefer to cover with kids, first of those three questions is the question of how did life begin? Because that is the most difficult question to answer from the naturalistic or from the Darwinian paradigm of how did life actually begin. So what we like to do with young kids is to, again, keep it really simple. You know, we’ll first introduce them to the concept of life and say, “Hmm, let’s look for things around this house that are living.” And we’ll point out a plant, point out a baby brother, you know, different things like that. And we’ll talk about, “Okay, what do all living things have the same?” And then we go into, you know, living things eat, they grow and they make more of themselves. So we talk through that and just, we just recommend, you know, for parents just spend a few days or spend a week, you know, just focusing on living things versus non-living things. You can play a game when you’re driving in the car. Okay. When you see a living thing, I want you to shout living, you know, as loud as you can, or when you see a non-living thing, I want you to whisper, not living, you know, as quietly as you can. So just turn it into a game. And once they’ve got the whole living versus non-living thing down say, “Hmm, okay. So what is it that makes this thing alive? What is it that makes it alive?” And then we can talk about a really, really big word. And you have to explain this to little ones. This really, really big word is information, you know, and practice saying information together, cause it’s a really long word. And then explain it like “Information is kind of like a plan. It’s a plan that’s inside of a living thing’s body. That’s how a mommy kangaroo’s body knows to grow baby kangaroo and not a baby hippopotamus. It’s how an apple tree knows how to grow apples and not oranges because of information.” And then again, you know, just take a week and practice the word information. You know, you can shout it loudly. You can whisper it quietly and then start looking for information just when you’re on a walk, look at a stop sign. “Hmm. What information does that give us? Oh, that tells us to stop, you know, at a traffic light. What information does that give us? Oh, it tells us that we need to stop or to go or to slow down, you know,” then talk about door when you’re opening up, you know, like the hinges on a door. You’re like, “Oh, that tells us that we can enter,” and then talk about. “Hmm, okay. So this information, did it get there by accident or on purpose?” And then make a game out of it. Talk about like, “Okay, so could the stop sign get here by accident? No. Somebody had to create it. Could the traffic light get here by accident? No. Somebody had to create it.” And just talk about every time we find information, in a book or somewhere else, it always has a creator. It always got here on purpose and then talk about, “Okay, so if our bodies have information in it, let’s follow this pattern. If everything that has information came on purpose and was created by a creator, that means that our bodies have information. So they were created on purpose and they have a creator.” Just so to show them, even when we investigate the clues around us, it points to a creator with older kids who can read, one thing that I love to do is just to take Scrabble tiles or Banana Gram tiles and to set up like a little mystery for them. So I’ll take two separate sets of Banana Gram tiles that are identical. And one set I’ll shake up in a cup and then dump on the table. And then the other set I’ll make a sentence out of it. Like something like “life contains information” and then I’ll call them into the room and say, “Okay, I want you to be detectives. Let’s look at these two different groups of Scrabble tiles. Okay. Let’s look at this first one, one that I just shook up and dumped down on the table. Okay. Does it look like it got here on purpose or by accident?” Talk about, “Oh, it looks like it was kind of accidental. Like it got knocked over.” And then we’ll talk about, “Well, why?” “Well, because it’s kind of like all over the place. There’s no pattern to it. We don’t really see any rhyme or reason.” And then we talk about, “Well, could it have gotten here this way on purpose? Like could somebody have taken all of the tiles and purposely arranged them that way? Yeah. It looks accidental, but it could have been purposeful. Then we go to the next group and say, “Okay, what does this group of letters say? It says “life contains information”. Okay. So let’s think about that. Does this look like it came about on purpose or by accident? Well, it looks like it’s on purpose.” “Why?” “Well, it actually spells words. Not only just words, it spells a sentence and the letters are all facing the same direction. They’re evenly spaced.” Then it’s like, “Okay, well this looks like it was purposeful, but could it have gotten this way accidentally?” And sometimes kids will say yes sometimes they’ll say no, but what I’ll usually have them do, I’ll be like, “Okay, let’s try to get this sentence again.” We’ll take that group of Scrabble tiles or Banana Gram tiles put them in a red solo cup, shake it up, dump it out. “Oh, did we get any words? I see an “a” there I see an “i” there, but you know, those are just really letters, not words. And we’ll try it again and again and again, and again, it’s like, man, like we’ve tried this so many times. Can we actually spell this sentence? No.” And so then I’ll take them to a YouTube clip that talks about all of the information that’s found in DNA and how the information found in, you know, a single strand of DNA is more information than a library full of books and say, “Okay, if we couldn’t get that one sentence to get spelled accidentally, do you think an entire library full of books could get that way accidentally? No. Okay, so what does this point to in our bodies? It points to our bodies were designed there is an intentional design to our bodies.” So just to show them when we say no, we don’t believe in our winning evolution. We don’t believe that we got here accidentally. We’re not closing our eyes to all of the evidence around us. We’re keeping our eyes wide open while also putting our trust in the God of the Bible because the two things line up. So just love to do that with little ones and then older kids.

Terrie:

That’s awesome. I love that so much. Well, I just appreciate so much you taking the time today to talk with us. I hope everyone who’s listening goes to your website and checks out the materials you have there. There’s so many great free materials as well as this awesome curriculum. And again, I’m very thankful that God has led you to this ministry is so needed. We need it so much. So again, thank you very much for joining us today.

Elizabeth:

Oh, thanks for having me on Terrie. It’s been a pleasure.

Terrie:

Thank you for joining us for “Books that Spark,” a podcast celebrating books that spark imagination, emotion, questions, and discussions as we disciple our children and help them follow Christ with their whole hearts. If you would like to connect with Elizabeth, you can reach her on her website foundationworldview.com, and you can also find the curriculum there, the webinars and all the materials, as well as the book club that she offers each month. The book club, and many of her materials, like I said before, are free and you can just join right in, but I love what she presents and what she helps us as parents to develop our ability to help our children think critically about the things they’re being told. And so it’s such a gift and such a wonderful ministry. So please be sure to check that out. And if you would like to connect with me, you can reach me at TerrieHellardBrown.com, where you can also join my mailing list. And as you know, if you join my mailing list, you receive several freebies just for signing up and each month you’ll receive my newsletter and you’ll also get notified each time I post a new podcast or blog post. Thank you for being with us today, and if you enjoyed this podcast, please like and share so that others will know we’re.

Your Host: Terrie Hellard-Brown

Terrie Hellard-Brown writes and speaks to help children and adults find God’s purpose and plan for their lives. She teaches workshops and writes devotional books, children’s stories, and Christian education materials.

Her podcast, Books that Spark, reviews children’s books that spark imagination, emotion, questions, and discussion leading to teachable moments with our kids. Her podcast posts each Tuesday morning.

Her blog posts discuss living as a disciple of Christ while parenting our children. She challenges us to step out of our comfort zones to walk by faith in obedience to Christ and to use the nooks and crannies of our lives to disciple our children.

Terrie uses her experiences as a mother of four (three on “the spectrum”), 37 years in ministry (15 in Taiwan), and 32 years teaching to speak to the hearts of readers.

Her motto is “Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be WONDERFUL” and keeps her childlike joy by writing children’s stories, delighting over pink dolphins, and frequently laughing till it hurts.

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